Life in Sweden
No. 2 Beer Cheaper than Water?
I remember, when I was a child, that I was so astonished to hear that beer and wine is cheaper than water in Europe and that they drink them instead of water at every meals. I was astonished again to find it was the case, after I began to live in Stockholm.
This beer in the photo was purchased in one supermarket nearby and it contains 2.8% alcohol. How do you think the price of this Danish pilsner "Nykobing gron" (both o is o with /) which comes with a 330 ml glass bottle? Surprisingly, it costs just only 3.50 SEK per bottle, which is approximately equivalent of 0.40 USD! Can you believe it?
I know this beer is exceptionally cheap, however my favorite "PRIPPS BLA (A is A with small circle on the top), containing 2.1% alcohol and coming with 330 ml aluminum can, costs only 6.50 SEK (approximately 0.80 USD). I think it tastes reasonably and I like it. On the contrast, the most common Swedish mineral water "Ramlosa" (o is o with : on its top) costs 5.00 SEK per 330 ml with glass bottle and 8.00 SEK per 330 ml with aluminum can. Therefore, it is TRUE that beer is cheaper than water here in Sweden!
In Scandinavia, the tap water is hard, however generally accepted to be reasonably good. Nevertheless, these light beers are enjoyed with lunch as a substitute for drinking water. I decided to follow old Japanese saying "Obey the rule of that village where you are in". And, as the result, I drink them almost everyday with my lunch and having no adverse effect to my afternoon efficiency, at least officially speaking.
Actually, I was really surprised to know the special system of alcohol selling in Sweden. Except for the light beers with alcohol content less than 3.5%, alcoholic drinks are not available from governmental monopolic chain store, "Systembolaget". Off course, there is no such thing like automatic vendors of beer, which are very common in Japan. According to the Official Website of "Systembolaget" , this system was introduced to Sweden once upon a time when alcohol abusing became big social concern. However, it seems for me that this is nothing but great inconvenience to "good citizens", as they are totally closed on Saturday and Sunday.
This is quite a big problem for people who work in the daytime from Monday to Friday, and they will have to hurry up to the nearest "Systembolaget" if they want to buy some alcoholic drink except for light beers after finishing their job in the evening. Therefore, the last one hour of "Systembolaget" , which usually closes at 6 pm or 7 pm, is jammed with crowd. Furthermore, they have to purchase the item directly face to face to the shop clerk, as there is only displayed samples and free copies of the catalogue found in the shop. You can easily imagine this will make the cue more longer, and everybody must wait very patiently for his or her turn to come. Funny thing is, tough guards appears from somewhere when it comes to the closing time, and they let go out the customers who has finished purchasing their drinks, but never let go in those who are late for the time! I personally feel that this is something in excess, however now I think this is the real Sweden in the evening of weekdays.
Very unfortunate thing for the researchers working in the Karolinska Institute in Huddinge, there is no "Systembolaget" within walking distance. The nearest one is 4 km away and we need take train or bus or car to go there. This means it is impossible to go to "Systembolaget" in the lunch time or in the long waiting time of some experiments, and as the result, I always have to compromise myself with light beers available in the nearby supermarket. Yes, they are cheap and reasonable, however I miss the real beer sometimes.
There are more stories with wines and beers, and it will be coming up again.
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Last Updated 1999/08/14
Copyright (C) 1999, Takashi Murata, All rights reserved